Earlier this month, I attended the 2014 Abolitionist Awards with a panel about Ending Demand in San Francisco, CA. Together, a group of us Sex Workers and our allies stood in the back of the room and listened as a panel of educators, non-profit workers and law enforcement spoke. I stood frozen. I tried to breath as violence, in the form of words flowed from their mouths. At one point, we were infantilized. At another, we equated to nothing more than “mouths, anuses, and vaginas’”. Feelings rushed through me, too many to remember, but the one thing that I didn’t feel as I stood there, was human. In 45 short minutes, a panel of people who had never met me before, lobbied to remove all humanity from me.
Ending Demand is a technique that Law Enforcement (LE) utilizes in 47 states in attempts to eradicate prostitutes. They say it is “prostitution”, they are seeking to eradicate, but that removes our humanity from the process, so lets be forthright and honest. It’s an attempt to eradicate us. To eradicate prostitutes, by taking away our income. In those states that utilize End Demand techniques, instead of arresting the sex workers, clients are arrested. Many times this goes along with seizure of personal assets (cars), and letters to their home and families about their behavior. Law Enforcements’ belief, is that by getting rid of our clients we will be forced out of the business. The belief being that if there is less demand, there will be less incentive to traffic our youth. But, with every action there is a reaction, a simple principle learn by most. And, since I’m still in the Sex Trade, and see exactly what this reaction is, please indulge me for a moment if you will. This is only my opinion and my experience, but I’m not sitting at a desk guys, I’m out here working, so that should carry some weight.
ENDING DEMAND AND WHAT THAT MEANS TO US SEX WORKERS:
When clients are targeted, in attempts to restrict human desire, it will always be ineffective. You can not legislate the human condition. Loneliness will always prevail, and human need will over ride any law you put in place. What will happen, is for awhile those who have something to lose will cease the activity. Those who have enough money will relocate their patronage of sex workers to another local where they believe it is safe. After a period, however, they will return as they are human, the first local was most likely more convenient, and the reasons for them seeing us won’t be dissolved just because of a sting. So when pressure is let off, the activity will resume. What will occur as a result of those sting periods, however, is exactly what one of the intended result is, there will be less clients in the area… however, 100% of those who are sex workers are still there. Those sex workers are now left with the middle of the road clients, (those less risk adverse… a little more fringe), and those who are on the riskier side (Ie, don’t respect a sex workers boundaries, those who want to engage in unsafe activity, those who seek to devalue, those who seek out children etc…), as they have nothing to lose.
We then take riskier appointments… ie, those coke heads that we would normally bounce in a hot second, because we still have to pay the bills. We drop to lower end clientele and often perform acts that we never would before, because our land lords won’t take an “I’m sorry” for the rent. We begin to take clients without the normal safety checks because we are desperate. Those of us who are trafficked get beaten more often because they can’t make their quota. Trafficking victims work longer hours and engage in even more riskier behavior - desperate to do anything so that “he will be happy”. How many times has one of us, who would normally never let someone tie her up, done so during a “hot” period because “he offered me a lot” and a “girl still has to eat”. We find ourselves in worse situations and we begin to turn on each other because we are competing for the same food. We now have no one to watch out for us. Those on the street begin to hide in alleys to catch their dates as the cover adds safety for their clients. Unfortunately, no one sees who she goes with and her rate of survival just got less. We often look to pimps to relocate us. If we’re involved in survival sex, survival just got harder. For some of us, it will be our first go round with the violence in this industry… for others, we just get ready for another “war”. Either way it goes, those who passed these laws and sanctioned these tactics, are at home all snuggled in their beds, and we’re left hoping that we will survive the night. These “End Demand Stings”, contribute to our deaths, our rapes, our robberies and our being trafficked… But I guess those who believe in abolition, feel that our lives are a reasonable cost.
Want a laugh that will almost make you cry? (for more than one reason!), make sure to watch this and leave a comment about the NOLA’s finest and their current crusade against condems!!!
In 2002, I was in Northern CA and was running an escort service out of the San Francisco, Napa/Sonoma, Marin County, and Sacramento areas. Those were the days of the full page telephone book ads. Each small town and county had another yellow book so the ads were expensive and many. At that time, the internet was really beginning to move. The old dos programs giving way to things like FrontPage, and it became clear that the internet was the way of the future. The large porn companies and other large conglomerates dominated the internet and individual escorts were barely seen, nor were many other individual people.
There were a few escorts in London and a couple in the US that put up pages. I was thinking of moving my service to the internet, but was worried about the numerous sting operations that were going on. The stress was horrible. So, I decided to try and put up a page with only my info on it and see how that worked. There was little to pattern this page after as we really didn’t do this back then. I decided to be inventive. I look back at that page and remember the hours of construction it took. Each part of the page had to be broken up so that it could load effectively. Each decision was independent and contraction includes so much more than text and graphics.
Today, I look at our (sex workers), progress and my heart swells. Women, men and transgender people are rocking their sites proudly. Where we used to be afraid to show our faces for fear of hate crimes and law enforcement issues, we now stand proudly. Some of us stepping out of the shadows others letting us in as far as they feel safe. This is just the beginning. We have started defining who we are as individuals. We are letting the outside world see that we are talented, intelligent, and constructive members of society.
I am proud and honored to be among you. We are an amazing group that will someday again (as we were in the past) be revered as intregal members of society. This nation will someday see the hate crimes for what they are and will be standing beside in our journey for equal rights. It is you, the Sex Workers of the US that have given me the strength to stay the course in the American Courtesans Project. It is you, who let me know that we are important and that we matter. It is you, that I am proud to say are my friends.
Mark these words….. as we progress into the educational systems in the US, things will change. More will join in our fight for equal rights under the law. We can feel the swell already. We will stand united with others as our numbers increase and someday we will be free from persecution. I promise to continue this fight and with you support our world will change. Thank you for all your support. Thank you for your unity, and most of all thank you for being you. Don’t change… I truly love you for exactly who are!!!!!
Inspired by some earlier tweets
I had just gotten a one bedroom apartment in Sacramento, California. The rent was $98 dollars a month, and I had a job at Michelle’s massage parlor, which I had just quit in order to dodge a pimp who was aggressively pursuing me. I obtained another job in a more obscure parlor down the street, but the money was slow, and I was lonely. This was a world I could tell no one else about. After shift, I would return home to my little one bedroom apartment, and the best I could hope for was an old boyfriend from high school, who knew what I did, coming by, drunk as he often was, offering to save me. So, I decided to take another job at a parlor I had heard about downtown - Venus. The parlor was situated on the corner of 24th and L which ultimately resulted in its demise during the period of the “Red Light Abatement Act”. An act which closed all parlors that were located close to a school or church, and this one was located right across the street from a church. However, the building still stands today.
My schedule was as follows: 8 hours at one parlor, 8 hours at another parlor, and then I would go home for 8 hours and be by myself. My socialization had become the girls at those parlors, often when not busy we would play cards, watch TV and talk. I felt safe in there as I wasn’t alone. It was back before the internet, and the age of technology, what you knew about predators was whatever you were told, and nothing more. Except for my own experiences, which in the last year had been pretty rocky, I knew nothing. My parents had taught me “never to talk to strangers” which was the pretty typical cry of the land, but nothing else. I would like to have thought I was worldly, but I really was just a kid.
One day as I was leaving Venus to go to the store and I ran into a very handsome young man named Frankie. He told me that he was a model and looking at him, it was a believable story. I had no reason to think that he was anything other than who he said he was and I certainly didn’t think that he knew anything about me.
In those days I knew nothing about surveillance, and counter surveillance. I simply walked around not looking over my shoulder as most teens do. We talked for a while and I agreed to meet him for a late night dinner. I told him where I worked not thinking it made a difference, and it didn’t as he already knew. The pimps in the area knew just how to target us and what to say. They knew to watch the doors and approach the young girls on the outside.
I returned to Venus and told Pearl all about him. We had just become friends that day; it was the first time we worked on the same shift. She handed me her number which I stuck in my back pocket, and I did the same. We finished our shift and I left for the night. Frankie picked me up on the corner, and we headed to Lyon’s, an all night coffee shop. Frankie bought me dinner and was very gracious. We talked for hours and by the time I was done, I had to go back to my first massage parlor because my shift was starting. No problem, I could sleep between customers. He dropped me off and offered to take me to my next job. That sounded wonderful… someone to talk to. He picked me up after my shift was over and took me back to Venus. It was the weekend and I had been busy. I had no time to stop by home or go anywhere. I worked that night and when I was done I was exhausted. I came out and Frankie was outside offering to take me home. I gratefully got in the car, but as soon as I did, he became a person I didn’t recognize. He grabbed my purse and took the two days money that I had gotten and began to drive like a mad man. He drove out to an old hotel by the executive airport and back then, there was very little else around. He took me inside and there he kept me for more than 24 hours. At the end of it, I had told him that I would work for him as I would have told him anything to be able to emerge from that room and have a chance to escape. I got in the car obediently as we headed back downtown. The car finally came to rest outside of a pawn shop. He explained to me that he had a ruby and sapphire bumble broach that he had to pawn, and with the money that he had taken from me, he was going to get it out. He left me in the car.
I was petrified and I probably would have just sat there, but a few minutes later he came charging out to see if I was still there. As he came to the car I could see his eyes looking down to the keys he had left in the car… His keys in the ignition, and the keys to my car in the console. After he saw that I was sitting there like he had instructed, instead of taking those keys, he re-entered the pawn shop. My heart was beating, but I knew what to do. I jumped behind the wheel and took off. I drove around for awhile so I could figure out what to do, I had his car! This was not what I had intended. I didn’t want to steal a car, I was just afraid he would catch me if I left on foot. I drove around for about 15 minutes then I decided to park it and put the keys under the mat a few blocks from where my car was in a parking garage. I parked the car and walked back to get my car.
After I entered the garage, I climbed three floors and crossed the garage to my car. It sat there pretty much alone, except for two or three other cars. I got in my car and tried to start it… it wouldn’t start. I tried again, and the same thing happened… it wouldn’t start. Just then Frankie stepped out from behind another car and I noticed he had something in his hand. It was my distributor cap. I didn’t even know what one of those were back then. He came around to the drivers side and began banging on the window hard. And then he told me, if I didn’t open up he would break the window and cut up my face with the glass. I unlocked the door and he grabbed me. He drug me to the edge and hoisted my body up on top of the wall with my head hanging over and I began to scream… All I remember is that he keep saying “it’s going to be your fault if you make me do this… it’s your fault if you get hurt” But just then the garage security attendant came around the corner. Frankie put me down as he approached.
Instantly Frankie reverted to the Frankie I had met, and began talking with the guys about this being a lovers quarrel between a man and a wife… that is all I heard, because I kicked off my shoes and began running. I ran as fast as I could and came out on Capitol Mall, right across from the State Capitol. I looked around and there was a restaurant across the street and I ran in the door. The second I entered I froze. The place was of cherry wood decor and clientele consisted of those working at the capital. Each dressed neatly in a dark blue or black suit, and here I was barefoot, tropical fish colored eye make up as Frankie had instructed, because remember he was taking me to work. I had on a tight pair of jeans an a cream colored satin bomber jacket, with a red and black dragon embroidered on the back, and dark red lipstick. I began to cry, I started to tell the hostess what had just happened, but as I spoke, I saw a look in her eyes that I will never forget. The look of disdain or hate. She handed me the phone and said I could make one phone call, but after that I’d need to leave, immediately, or she would call the cops on me.
I took the phone, but I realized I had no one to call…. no one. And then, I remember that a couple nights prior Pearl had given me her number. I searched my pants pockets and from the creases, I extracted a small crumpled white paper. That paper, had more value than most will ever experience in their life times. Those seven digits scrawled upon it gave me the best friend of my life. Without question, and in no time, Pearl was out front of that establishment. She took me to her place, which at that time was a back room of a clients house, and gave me something to eat. To this day, I don’t know what life would be like without her. She is my best friend and one of my saviors. I guess this is my way of saying thank you. Too often we are victimized, too often no one cares, and she was there. I’m honored to call her my friend.
Child Sex Trafficking Rescue: FBI Saves 105 Victims in ‘Operation Cross Country
A Sex Workers take on our attempts to right a wrong…
Every time I see one of these articles, my heart drops. Being a sex worker, that entered this business early in life, I know all too well of the predators out there and what can happen. However, our current laws and legal structure make these raids little more than headlines. I’d like to walk you through what happens so that you can see just how the laws “save” these young girls.
First, I’d like to tell you a little bit about how our laws are set up in the US. Currently, there are only 11 safe harbor states in the US. What a safe harbor means is that if an under aged child is caught in a prostitution sting, then they won’t be prosecuted along with their trafficker. In the rest of the states, that child will catch a case too. In “safe harbor” states, these laws only apply until the child is 14 or 15 years of age. Once they have reached a certain birthday, they are no longer exempt from prosecution… No matter what their circumstances, no matter whether or not they had a choice, no matter if they even saw a penny from their exploitation. Human trafficking victims, more frequently that not end up with an arrest record that tarnishes them for life. After all, who wants to hire a prostitute?
Now, lets say that it is a safe harbor state, what happens then? Well, these children are then re-victimized. They are made a deal, if they give up information against the traffickers they will be then put in a diversion program which they are required to complete. If they fail… then they go to jail or are charged with prostitution. So, many chose a conviction which means only a couple days in jail or a fine. As many of the diversion programs require sometimes up to 6 months attendance, and if you fail to complete them you will then be charged and go to jail anyway. I remind you these are victims and children I’m speaking of. I speak from experience…it is such a terrifying experience that they just want to go home. They just want it to be over… and for them to be drug through a mandated program, labels them, and stigmatizes them. They just want it to be over. Two days vs. 6 months and a threat of harm to their family and loved ones, which would you pick?
Why wouldn’t a child give up her captors? Well, lets think about it. Many times there is more than one. The child is now incarcerated with no freedom and one of the people who is controlling them is free. With threats made against the child’s loved ones and family, it is safer for them to go to jail. The traffickers have already drilled into the child’s head what will happen if they talk or are arrested and of course, the police follow do exactly what the traffickers said, they actually play into the traffickers hands…..from handcuffing to humiliation. So why would a child believe that their families are the next to be hurt if they talk?
A quote from an earlier raid - same operation “Operation Cross Country” - SF area (http://www.sfbg.com/2012/07/10/caught-fbis-net)
BG: What was the questioning like?
“M: You know, I’ve been through a lot of things in my life. Family tragedies. Just like a lot of people. But that was definitely hands down, probably top five most traumatic events in my life. I’ve never felt so degraded. They were sitting there asking me, why do you have condoms in your bag? I had a vibrator, I had lube, and I had condoms with me.
There were four men and one woman in the room, and they were all sitting there making jokes. One of the officers was very adamant about telling me that he would never pay me that much for my services.”
So…trafficking is a problem, but the techniques we use and the criminalization of the victim has to stop. If your child were caught up by human traffickers would you want them to be made fun of by those who were supposedly “rescuing them?”. We as a society are lulled into believing that these stings are helping. It makes us feel better, but the truth is, once the headlines are out, and the humiliation has started, those being trafficked know there is no where to turn - the police are definitely not their friends, and they are driven deeper underground than they were before.
To learn more about how the laws pertaining to Sex Work effect us here in the US check out the documentary American Courtesans. http://www.americancourtesans.com
Since the release of American Courtesans we have been watching the media go both ways. So often main stream media chooses to present our industry with a slant. They love to either glorify or demonize. Very few times do they actually accept us as we are. While on this journey of informing the public about who we are and what we really do add to society, we have found some friends and allies which have stepped up and spoken out for us. This is no small feat, and I wanted to make sure that their efforts don’t go unnoticed. I know that their peers were not to happy with the decision, as negative press about Sex Workers is the status quo. However, if we want them to continue, it is my belief that we have to support them back. For without that, why would they in the future stick their neck out… So here is the list of those in the media who have taken a big risk…
The amazing Danny Miller at MSN:
The very supportive Steve Gustafson at 411mania:
The very kind Fred Topple from the Suicide Girls:
Just to name a few. And… on August 5th I will be on the Adam Corolla show (if all goes as planned). For those of you who don’t know who he is, he is a wonderful comedian who used to do a show called LoveLine, and the Man Show. His podcast is the number on downloaded podcast in the world!!!
I am very excited that we are now being presented with a positive slant. I always believe that in anyone’s life they have choices… we can be part of the solution or part of the problem. There is no neutral when it comes to life…. I understand just how dangerous it is for anyone to step out in this day and age here in the US… But, discreetly, posts and support can be made. Thank you so much!
(As a side note: We are now available on many platforms. iTunes is the number one platform that tells the ranking systems if it is something that they want more of. Due to the powers that be, we were blocked out of rolling out in the US on opening weekend… so very political!!! However, if you could go to itunes and watch American Courtesans … $4.99, and rate/rank it honestly, our voice will be heard louder. There are many platforms to see it on, but iTunes is the standard for the film industry to decide of topics that they like to hear about. I would like to do another film on the same subject, however that is really iTunes dependent. Thanks so much, you guys rock!!!!)